Police officers would face prison time for warrantless GPS tracking of suspects under a proposal pending in Lansing.
House Bill 4911, officers would face up to two years in prison, up to a
$1,000 fine or both if GPS is used without a warrant to track suspects.
an incident involving warrantless GPS resulted in a suspect’s injury or
death, the officer would face up to four years in prison, up to a
$5,000 fine, or both, under the bill.
County Sheriff Bob Bezotte said officers should be required to obtain a
warrant to use GPS to track suspects but should not face legal
penalties for failing to do so.
think it will be a good law. In probably 99 percent of the cases you
can get search warrants in plenty of time to do the GPS and make that
part of your investigation,” the sheriff said.
we’re out trying to do our job and we make a mistake, the case is
usually dismissed. Then, to impose a penalty, a felony, on a law
enforcement officer is ridiculous,” however, Bezotte added. “The common
theme is they are not going to intentionally try to violate someone’s
rights knowing the court is going to view it.”
He said there should be exceptions to obtaining a GPS warrant, such as when a suspect in Michigan crosses state lines.
bill’s sponsor and privacy advocates noted the measure would be
difficult to enforce, particularly if GPS is used in an investigation
but not admitted in court.
bill would implement in state law a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling,
which found it a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s search and seizure
protections to affix GPS devices to suspects’ cars.
the Supreme Court case, it was determined that FBI and Washington,
D.C., police affixed a GPS device to Antoine Jones’ car and tracked him
for a month in violation of his constitutional rights.The
case was specific to attaching GPS devices to vehicles, but the ruling
has come the closest to addressing GPS tracking in general, said Shelli
Weisberg, legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union of
Michigan. GPS devices are factory installed in many cellphones and
Weisberg said having a Michigan statute addressing the issue would
make clear to law enforcement that warrants are required to use GPS
Without a law on the books, the
door is left open to violating Michiganders’ rights as GPS technology
continues to evolve and become cheaper, she added.
said reported law enforcement abuse of the Law Enforcement Information
Network, or LEIN, system, has given her pause about the potential of
officers to use technology for personal gain.
know that having the penalty clause in there is probably going to
create opposition from all of law enforcement and we may never get the
bill passed” with penalties included, she said.
isn’t that unusual to have a penalty for someone who is clearly abusing
the system. I don’t think it’s enough just for the case to be thrown
out,” however, Weisberg added.
Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, introduced the bill in July. Republican
Tom McMillin of Rochester Hills introduced the companion bill that make
violating the proposed GPS rules a felony offense.
bills were introduced during the Legislature’s summer break, which
means they may not be considered for a hearing until fall.
said he introduced his bill because personal privacy is a bipartisan
concern that would be heard in the GOP-led Legislature. He said he
worked with McMillin because the GOP lawmaker is active on privacy
rights on the opposite side of the aisle.
Irwin and McMillin proposed the same measures last year.
said he is unaware of warrantless use of GPS in Michigan, but that his
bill is a proactive measure. He said the bill’s penalty provisions would
ensure that law enforcement would secure warrants before using the
“That’s the additional way that this bill would protect citizens against those types of abuses,” he said.
local House colleagues, Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Genoa Township, and Cindy
Denby, R-Handy Township, said they are interested in at least reviewing
the GPS proposal.
think there always has to be a balance between privacy and allowing law
enforcement to be able to do their job in a timely manner,” Denby said.State Sen. Joe Hune, R-Hamburg Township, was not available for comment for this story.
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